What Does it Mean to be an Adoptee?
When searching for the meaning of an adopted child, it’s important to understand who adoptees are and why they need the opportunity to discover the adoptee meaning.
- The adoptee meaning goes far beyond a simple definition.
- Every adoptee has a unique story to tell.
- Adoptees want you to know how they view the meaning of being an adopted child.
You can look in the dictionary to find the definition of being an adoptee, but it doesn’t describe the true meaning of an adopted child.
The only way you can truly understand the adoptee meaning is to listen to their stories.
Adoptees have a unique perspective on life, and as they learn more about their origin and their biological parents, they begin to create an identity based on their past and present.
The information provided here will help answer your question, “What does it mean to be adopted?” but also give you a deeper look into how an adoptee feels, how their adoption story impacts their lives and their understanding of the adoptee meaning.
What You Need to Know about the Meaning of an Adopted Child
You know what an adoptee is by definition, but understanding an adoptee's identity and hearing their story helps you better answer the question, “What does adoptee mean?”
At American Adoptions, we have a unique perspective of the adoptee meaning.
Many of us are adoptees, adoptive parents or birth mothers
Take it from our owner, Scott Mars, an adoptee himself.
“My mom and dad were a couple who weren’t able to become a mom and dad without adoption. Of all people in this world, my mom and dad deserve to be parents. And without adoption, they would not have been able to share their love, share their life, and give someone the life that I had.
“Because of adoption, my life was filled with love and opportunity.” You can watch Scott’s video to see his entire adoption story.
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Being adopted and the adoptee meaning means many different things to many different people.
Adoptees are given a chance to live a life full of opportunity with a family better capable of providing a safe and nurturing environment.
However, adoptees also eventually face their adoption story and want to know more about where they came from, who their biological parents are and why they chose adoption. This can bring joy and challenges.
John Michael DeFrank, who was placed for adoption through our agency, was told he was an adoptee at an early age but didn’t fully understand the adoptee meaning until later.
“I found out that I was adopted around the age of 2 or 3, but I didn’t really understand it at first,” John said. “I was too young to know that my biological parents placed me with my adoptive parents because they loved me and wanted what was best for me; not because I wasn’t good enough or because they didn’t want me. It didn’t really hit me that my biological parents didn’t keep me because they cared about me until about the age of 8 or 10.”
John’s initial perspective and understanding of the adoptee meaning at a young age leads to some very common emotions.
Coping with Being an Adoptee
Many adoptees first learn about their adoption story and immediately begin to deal with negative emotions.
The thought of a biological parent not wanting them, societal rejection and feelings of not fitting in are all common for adoptees.
Like John, adoptees eventually address the question, “What does it mean to be adopted?” and have a better understanding of their story, their place in the world and why their birth parents chose adoption.
“Between the ages of 8 and 10, I realized that Judy and Travis, my birth parents, must have really cared about me. To this day, I can only imagine how hard it must be to give up your child, your own flesh and blood, without knowing if you will ever see him or her again. Over the years, Judy and I have written letters back and forth. The letters helped me to understand that she cared, and still cares, a lot about me.”
By having an open adoption, adoptees like John often understand the adoptee meaning better because they can maintain a connection with their biological parents.
Anymore, closed adoptions aren’t nearly as common and birth parents and adoptees communicate in various ways, such as:
- Phone calls
- Text messages
- Social media
- Video chat
- In-person visits
The ability to have at least some level of connection with a birth parent gives adoptees answers to their questions about why they were placed for adoption.
But what about adoptees in a closed adoption?
Most states have strict laws for obtaining birth records, making it difficult for adoptees to find out where they came from and who their biological parents are. The lack of access to birth records can make it difficult for adoptees to emotionally understand their adoption story.
Director of Social Work at American Adoptions and an adoptee, Jennifer Van Gundy, grew up in a closed adoption and spent many years asking questions about her origin.
“My parents have always made me feel special because I was adopted, but I do admit that I had a lot of questions growing up. From a medical standpoint, my health history ended when I was born. I didn’t have anything else beyond that for most of my life. Like all adoptees, I had questions about my birth parents and feelings of shame over not being wanted, especially because I had no information about my birth mother’s adoption decision.”
Because of a change in state laws, Jennifer could obtain her birth records and identify her biological mother.
“My birth mother said she was shocked when I first reached out, especially because it was unexpected in her closed adoption,” Jennifer said. “For most of my life, I had wondered about my birth mother. Was she okay? Did she have a healthy adoption process? I got the answers to these questions and those about my personal health history, and we’re tentatively getting to know each other better through our new contact.”
The experience of meeting the woman who gave birth to you for the first time as an adult is unlike nearly any other experience. That’s why the emotions associated with being an adoptee, and how an adoptee is faced with the complex task of forming an identity while missing vital pieces of information, are why most non-adopted people often don’t understand the true meaning of an adopted child.
It takes adoptees years of answering questions, hopefully finding answers and reconciling their birth history to understand the adoptee meaning, which is why adoptive parents play such a crucial role.
The Meaning of an Adopted Child and How Adoptive Parents Play a Vital Role
Supportive parents can mean everything to an adoptee who is asking questions about their birth family. Sometimes, adoptees can feel reluctant to find birth information because it would be “disloyal” to their adoptive family. Because of this, adoptees often feel stuck, unsupported and as though they have no control. But a supportive adoptive family can change that.
Adoptive families can play a vital role in helping adoptees learn about their adoption stories to help cope with the sometimes complex emotions and create an identity at an early age.
Regardless of how little an adoptive family might know about a child’s birth parents, offering encouragement to find that information is a big step towards an adoptee understanding the meaning of being an adopted child, learning about their past and creating an identity as an adult.
Such support also gives adoptive families and friends a better understanding of the adoptee meaning and how they can help an adoptive have a voice and feel empowered.
If you’re interested in adopting a child or placing a child for adoption, you can always get in touch with one of our experienced professionals online or by calling 1-800-ADOPTION.
You can also find helpful information on adoptee support groups here.
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